Looking After Photographs

Photographs are many peoples’ most treasured possessions. It’s important to store, display and label your photographs properly, no matter which era they are from. Here are our top tips for looking after them. We encourage you to print this page and store it with your medals as a reminder of how to care for your photos.

STORAGE

  • Don’t store your photographs in the attic (too hot), basement or garage (too damp). Pick an interior room, or cupboard
  • Avoid extremes in temperature or humidity
  • Keep them off the floor. They are more likely to be damaged by water or insects on the floor
  • Don’t overpack boxes of photographs. Boxes should be comfortably full without being overcrowded or having empty spaces. Photographs should be the appropriate size or width for a box
  • Store negatives in sleeves made of inert plastic (like uncoated polyethylene or polyester) or envelopes made of acid-free paper
  • Vendors for archival quality boxes, tissue and folders: Preservation Equipment Ltd, Conservation by Design, Conservation Resources UK Ltd

HANDLING

  • Minimize handling and handle with care
  • Always have dry hands when handling photographs. Consider wearing clean gloves to prevent dirt or stains
  • Keep food and drink away

PHOTOGRAPH ALBUMS

  • Don’t rush to take photographs out of old albums. Older paper-paged photo albums are probably not harming your photographs but removal may cause immediate damage. Older photo albums also contain interesting inscriptions that you do not want to lose
  • If putting photographs into an album avoid any plastic containers or sleeves that smell like a new shower curtain (PVC). PVC generates acids that fade photographs over time
  • Do not use white glue, rubber cement, sticky tape, masking tape or staples for mounting photographs. Use plastic or paper photo corners
  • Do not use paper clips or rubber bands to organise photographs
  • Use albums with high-quality, non-acidic paper. Avoid self-stick style albums
  • Do not use sticky tape to mend photographs. Over time the adhesive fails and will live a brown stain. If in doubt consult a conservator. Contact Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, 01302 734293, [email protected]

LABELLING

  • Do not write on negatives. Note details on the acid-free folder they are stored in
  • If you would like to caption the photograph write on the back with a soft lead pencil
  • Write lightly to avoid coming through on to the photograph
  • Label the back of the photograph along the edge to avoid the potential for damage to the middle of the photograph
  • Identify people and places in detail if you can. For example, rather than writing ‘Mum’ write her full name. This will help people in the future research the photographs
  • Consider making a photocopy of the photograph to annotate rather than the original

ON DISPLAY

  • If you choose to display the photograph, don’t hang it in a bathroom or over heat sources like radiators or fireplaces
  • Photographs on display should be hung away from sunlight and bright lights
  • Try to avoid the photograph having direct contact with the glass in a frame
  • Don’t use spray cleaners around the photographs. Many are corrosive and will cause damage to the photographs
  • Consider displaying copies wherever possible

MAKING COPIES

  • Make digital copies or photocopies of photographs. Store the copies in a different place to the original
  • Back up digital copies
  • Do not throw away your original prints after you digitize them. They are not replacements for originals